HOW many of our leaders today are conscious about the fact that the decisions they make will certainly have an impact on the future? Resources are scarce and there is a need for a more conscientious use of public funds, but many leaders choose to still splurge on building unnecessary structures instead of seriously improving the life of its citizens through improved healthcare system, economic and livelihood development, transparent and faster government transactions, improved peace and order, and better training and educational systems. Most citizens today are no longer blinded by the so-called traditional politicians’ palliative or band-aid solutions. However, political seats are as cheap as thousand pesos per voter, hence, the cycle is really hard to destroy. There is that decade’s long debate as to what must come first – good leaders or good citizens. For me, the lines are blurred. Our society is guilty of perpetrating hopelessness even as the middle-class population is resigned to simply accepting that if one has the money to buy as many votes – then he or she wins. That same thinking will prevail for more decades until it becomes clear to most of us that only a change of mindset can trigger a change in our realities.
Let’s see how we gradually help change mindset. I would like to share one pioneering move a good friend from my college years has started in her current post as Dean and Senior Vice President of the Development Academy of the Philippines, Graduate School of Public and Development Management. Dr. Lizan Perante-Calima, or Lizan as I call her espouses futures thinking as a tool to identifying pre-determined and critical uncertainties in a systematic way has been a concern by many practitioners in the United States, Europe and Asia. Usually associated to foresight and link to policy making, futures thinking is one of the approaches that can be employed by the Philippine government in pushing for policies towards an anticipatory governance mindset.
Futures thinking is not new in the Philippines but was never picked up by many stakeholders, including the government. It was practiced by a few in 1970s but when Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and other jurisdictions around the world, Lizan, a native of Bacolod, saw the imperative of applying futures thinking in policy foresight responses.
Along with her academic team, she started facilitating the discourse on Futures Thinking by inviting experts from Futures Platform Finland for a discussion in April this year. To sustain the initiatives on Futures Thinking in the country, she organized a professional group called Philippine Futures Thinking Society (PhilFutures) co-founded by Chief Futurist Shermon Ortega Cruz as her Vice President. As a professional organization, it launched a number of knowledge co-creation activities via webinars. One of the remarkable activities of PhilFutures was the establishment of the Millennium Project Philippine Node aimed to deepen the Futures Thinking research in the country and identify the indicators for the State of Futures Index.
On June 19, 2020, the birth date of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine Futures Thinking Society was launched to propel the practice of Futures Thinking in the country. These include senate hearings and a briefing on Futures Thinking with legislators in both Houses of Congress, which eventually led to a Certificate Course on Futures Thinking at the DAP Graduate School.
Uncertainty faces all of us every day, which is why strategic foresight in the public sector is all the more needed. Futures thinking will allow policymakers and public servants to see the risks and opportunities in each future undertaking, as well as effectively anticipate and adapt to new advancements and changes, and the challenges they bring. In promoting futures thinking, we are also making a commitment to improve our strategies and processes to better serve the Filipino people and their interests.
Lizan shares that in one weekend in March along with her research associates during the conduct of their Executive Course on Public Management Research, they conceived this ambitious idea to create a hub and laboratory or "HubLab" that will consolidate all our efforts to advance excellence in public management. They later called it the “GSPDM Knowledge-Innovation HubLab” which has Futures Studies Education as one of its platforms. Because of the pandemic, they did not anticipate that they will be able to make significant strides in Futures Studies efforts, but as they say, good things happen when you least expect it.
The PhilFutures along with DAP Graduate School of Public and Development Management and other institutional members will host the Asia Pacific Futures Network virtual conference on November 19 to 21 with the theme Regenerating Asia 2050 Using Futures Literacy to Transform Governance, Culture and Economy. Under the leadership of Lizan, the policy and decision-making process in the country will somehow be reshaped towards an anticipatory governance mindset.